Have you ever given Irani chai a try? It’s a must, especially when you have an Irani café around.

Irani cafes are some of the fancy and cozy cafes’ we all picture in our minds and that have been prominently showcased in many Bollywood movies. These cafes hold a rich history, dating back to the time when the Iranian community traveled to India during the British era. To sustain their livelihood, they ventured into the food business, leading to the establishment of Irani café in India.The Iranian community flourished in different regions of India and their food business too. However, now only a handful of them are left and can be found mostly in the city of Mumbai and a few in Pune and Hyderabad.

Maskawala & Co.

The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet1
Entrance of Maskawala & Co._Shanu Rathi (self)

Pune has been home to several outstanding Irani cafes that have also been cherished by the people of Pune.Maskawala & Co. is the latest addition to the list, situated in the area of Kothrud. The structure used to be a stand-alone bungalow. However, the owner realized it would become a famous hangout place due to his vision. The system is a mixed-use building with the upper floor as a residence and the ground floor as a café. This kind of mixed-use structure is familiar to Punekars. Irani cafes are famous for their classic Irani chai and Bun Maska, in the same way the classic furniture and the interior spaces make the cafe more lively.

The Design Part

The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet2
Maskawala & Co._Shanu Rathi (self)

Its semi-open nature ensures a fresh atmosphere no matter when you visit. The billing counter, bakery display counter, indoor sitting, and large sitting area are adjacent to each other. The kitchen is situated towards the rear. A green-filled corridor at the opposite end leads to the upper residential floor. The goal is to offer a clear route to each job. Privacy is very well maintained to avoid intruders.This sitting area is constructed from steel sections and slab extensions. Upon entering Maskawala & Co. you may first arrive at the sitting area with 3 sides of large openings barricaded with jali brick walls and metal jali’s painted in blue and black. The openings have bamboo blinds rolled down to shade the seating area. The interior walls feature intricately painted murals and quotes adorned with stylish frames, along with posters showcasing nostalgic moments from the past. Great care was taken in selecting the tiles to enhance the overall visual appeal.There are 2 types of tiles used, one for aesthetics and the other to guide the pedestrian pathway in the larger sitting area. The smaller seating area was designed with walls painted in a soothing peach color, complemented by white and black check tiles. Mirrors were strategically placed on the walls at angular positions, accompanied by a tinted window frame and a framed national flag. The roof features a false ceiling consisting of wooden frames running horizontally from one side to the other.

The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet3
Side wall at Maskawala & Co._Shanu Rathi (self)
The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet4
Semiopen seating area at Maskawala & Co_ Shanu Rathi (self)
The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet5
Indoor Seating Area at Maskawala & Co._Shanu Rathi (self)
The Irani Cafe, Pune  - Sheet6
Wall Murals at Maskawala & Co._Shanu Rathi (self)

The furniture used provides the environment of a typical Irani cafe; i.e. the black round metal table with red and white check printed tablecloth and a glass top with a menu slide-in, metal chairs with details on them, and the wooden table with classic 4 legs and orange check printed table cloth with the classic wooden chair with cushioning. At Maskawala & Co, the bakery display stands and the billing desk both are made of metal with a silver shine. This looks like a classic Iranian café. Blue and yellow are used to add an attractive and fresh feeling upon entering. The hanging lights add to the aesthetics and combine well with the wooden sections. Switches from the past remind us of the past.

As this place is built in the setback area of the plot, it is an excellent example of adaptive reuse. The design is aimed at attracting people to the place so that the environment resembles an Iranian café in 2023. The detailing, the color psychology, the hierarchy of privacy, outdoor and indoor seating, and the patterns on the tiles are all crafted very well. This creates the right environment at Maskawala & Co. the cozy Iranian café.

As all designers know, the perfect way to create a place to connect to its users is to design it while understanding everything about the place and what needs to be crafted out of it using all small and big details. Ultimately, the outcome of design thinking would craft the essence of the place and connect with the user. This has been done correctly here at Maskawala & Co by the architects. By incorporating these elements, an Iranian café has been created that not only aligns seamlessly with the year 2023 but also pays homage to the design and name with the utmost reverence they deserve.


Citations for images/photographs – Print or Online:

Rathi, S. 2023. Photographs of Maskawala & Co.  Fig. 1 to 6


Shanu Rathi is someone who is mesmerised by the innovation created by human minds. She has many ambitions starting from writing a book to exploring the secrets of architecture.